Even as the observance of Child Protection Week nears, the Ministry of Human Services through its child care arm, the Child Care and Protection Agency, is looking to bolster its efforts to protect vulnerable children.
While children may be subjected to various forms of abuse from persons within the society, they are at times subjected to abuse at the hands of the very people who are expected to protect them.
Minister of Human Services, Jennifer Webster, has even alluded to instances where children are left to take care of themselves and younger siblings, a practice that is not acceptable.
Moreover, the Human Services Minister, yesterday warned that since her Ministry has a zero tolerance for the abuse of children in all forms “this year we plan to charge parents… I think that we have to send the signal to parents.”
Adding to the Minister’s comments yesterday was Director of Child Care and Protection Agency, Ann Greene, who pointed out that oftentimes children are rescued from dysfunctional homes and are placed in protective care. She however, insisted that parents have a duty to provide protection and care for their children. “If they are not doing it how they should, and if in spite of the help we are giving them they are still not coming up to scratch, then they should be placed before the courts so that they can really understand their roles and responsibilities,” Greene said.
According to her, while the Child Protection Agency has been collaborating well with the police force to cater to the protection of children, there are however, some shortcomings.
And it was in order to “iron out” these shortcomings that a workshop targeting frontline police ranks commenced yesterday at the Camp Street, Georgetown, Guyana Police Force Training Centre.
The forum was graced by both Minister Webster and the Director of Child Care and Protection.
Greene, ahead of the start of the forum told media operatives that there are some areas in the Child Protection Act that may need to be clarified in order for the child protection mandate to be carried out more efficiently. “I don’t think that everybody is clear on it (The Act). If a matter of child abuse is reported to the police station, the Act says that they (police ranks) should at least inform us so that a Child Protection Officer can be involved in the investigation, and there are some other particular things in the Act,” outlined Greene.
While sensitising police ranks was the primary target of the workshop, the Child Protection Director noted that the roles of Probation and Social Services Officers as well as Child Care and Protection Officers, were also slated for keen attention. “We have to build a team, we have to collaborate so that we could be effective in providing Child Care and Child Protection Services,” Greene categorically asserted.
The workshop, which is set to culminate today is expected to highlight the importance of not only the Child Protection Act, but also the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence legislation as well.
With the vast knowledge the ranks are slated to gain, the Human Services Minister is optimistic that her Ministry will be able to get more informed support from the police force.
And it is her belief too, that this will lend to greater efficiency in the reporting of sexual offences committed on victims, especially women and children.
She noted that in order for ranks to address such cases in a coherent manner, it is of utmost importance that they be properly trained to implement the various Acts, such as the Sexual Offences Act. “Many of the agencies that have to implement the Act, have to understand and have a greater awareness of what the Act states, especially as it relates to prosecution,” the Minister intimated yesterday.
But as it relates directly to the involvement of police ranks, the Minister disclosed that “we have developed a protocol…which is the standard operation procedure which will guide them in dealing with reports when they come to the respective stations, and what is required of the ranks in terms of the investigating process.”
This is of great importance Webster noted, in order to ensure that cases are not easily thrown out for lack of evidence.
Added to this, she disclosed that the protocol that the Ministry has developed also addresses how cases involving child victims should be dealt with.
Continuing her deliberations on the need to appropriately treat cases with child victims, the Minister disclosed that the Child Care and Protection Agency, through a One-Stop-Shop Memorandum of Understanding, has partnered with Child Link and Forward Guyana to have a more child-friendly environment. This collaboration, according to the Minister, is intended to help address the complaints of very young rape victims by using friendly processes such as visual arts and other measures.
Moreover, yesterday’s activity was designed to share information with the police ranks with a view of ensuring that they understand and comprehend what is really required by law when it comes to addressing such sensitive matters.
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